If you were paying attention to the four wide receivers Ohio State added for the 2017 campaign, one thing in particular likely stood out to you.
Between Trevon Grimes, Jaylen Harris, Ellijah Gardiner and Brendon White, the Buckeyes didn’t sign a receiver shorter than 6-foot-2 in the 2017 cycle. At 6-foot-5, Harris stands as the tallest wideout on the Ohio State roster.
On signing day, Urban Meyer dismissed the notion that the Buckeyes had changed their receiver recruiting philosophy. But the Ohio State coach didn’t deny the benefits of his team’s recent trend of targeting taller players.
“Everybody wants Julio Jones,” Meyer said, referencing the 6-foot-3 NFL All-Pro. “They don’t come around very often.”
It seems obvious to say that height can be perceived as a positive for a football prospect. Plus, it’s not like Meyer hasn’t valued it in the past. His most successful receiver in Columbus, Michael Thomas, measured in at 6-3. Last season, 6-2 Noah Brown tied for the team lead in touchdown catches with 7.
Where Meyer’s philosophy has seemed to evolve, however, is that height is no longer a bonus, but a requirement, for his receivers. In 2016, Ohio State signed two wideouts: 6-3 Binjimen Victor and 6-2 Austin Mack. Meyer has pointed to Victor as a potential star.
“Bin Victor is going to be a dynamite player here,” Meyer said this past signing day.
But what’s been most telling about Ohio State’s strategy is the signing of players who seemingly don’t possess that same star potential. In 2015, the Buckeyes signed Alex Stump, who ranked as the nation’s No. 301 prospect. He also measured in at 6-3. This past year when Ohio State was looking to add a receiver late, it zeroed in on Gardiner, the only 3-star position player in its 2017 class.
In the past three recruiting cycles, the Buckeyes have signed just one receiver shorter than 6-2. Their 2014 crop, meanwhile, included three such players — Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell — each of whom remain on the roster. None of them have yet to amass more than 13 catches in a single season.
That’s not to say the Buckeyes are no longer willing to recruit short receivers. Ohio State had secured a commitment from 5-foot-9 4-star prospect Tyjon Lindsey, who ultimately signed with Nebraska in February.
Had he chosen the Buckeyes, Lindsey would have projected as an H-back, the same position Campbell converted to this past offseason. Six-foot K.J. Hill also possesses the potential to play the running back-receiver hybrid role.
But when it comes to Ohio State’s outside receivers, it isn’t hard to see what Meyer is looking for. Just look up.
“It’s just can you get them? Are they out there? Are they good enough?” Meyer said. “Everybody wants big and fast. I don’t think any school in the country is looking for small.”